How I lost my gallstones and saved my gallbladder
Total years in practice: 22
One Wednesday in October, a couple of years ago, I was sipping my latte and getting ready for a dentist appointment. I felt a burning in my stomach, and then a dull pain starting in my belly and radiating to my back. I had a sip of water and tried to lie down for a bit, but it didn't seem to help. Actually, things were going downhill, fast. Within half an hour, I was writhing on the floor in pain. An emergency trip to the ER and an ultrasound exam revealed I had two gallstones, plenty of sludge, and an inflamed gallbladder. I was 33 at the time. I had already been diagnosed with a kidney stone at the age of 27 (after an equally agonizing experience). Both the ER doctor and, a few days later, my own GP were very clear: surgery was my only option. My GP prescribed painkillers, six weeks of a very strict diet, and then an appointment with a surgeon. I felt disheartened. I was so young. Why were these doctors being so nonchalant? I understood that it was a routine procedure, and that one can live to an old age without their gallbladder, but still – I reasoned – losing one of your organs should not be taken so lightly. I decided to use those six weeks to weigh my options.
I have a young daughter, and I feel I need to be strong and healthy for her. Spending carefree, pain-free time with my family is my greatest joy.
These days I try to treat my gallbladder kindly, while still enjoying food. I eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables lean meats, and healthy grains. Coffee is limited to one cup a day. I try to avoid fatty foods.
I guess my reasoning is: if you get a new lease on your body, try to do better the second time around.
I started with dietary changes. This was a no-brainer: the pain that followed every meal was crippling, and I was terrified that a few bites of the wrong thing would land me on the operating table. Pain, I have learned the hard way, is the best motivator. I cut all processed foods, sugar, coffee, fat, dairy, raw produce, and legumes. At first, when the inflammation is acute, the diet needs to be very clean. The main foods to include are beets, cucumbers, flaxseed tea and apple juice, if you can tolerate it. It is essential to have three meals a day, four or five hours apart. Absolutely no snacks are allowed in between – the gallbladder needs to rest.
My second step were herbs and supplements. My herbalist recommended calming the inflammation first. For six weeks I took milk thistle capsules twice a day, to cleanse my liver of toxins, and every meal was preceded by artichoke drops, to soothe the gallbladder. I drank 6 cups of herbal tea a day – a blend of chamomile, dandelion and yarrow.
After the first six weeks I had lost 8 kilos, and was ready for phase two: getting rid of the stones. The diet was similar, although less strict. However, every morning and evening, I took omega-3 fatty acids and a tumbler of aloe vera gel. The omega-3's are said to dissolve stones, and the aloe is an amazing cleanser.
The routine takes patience and perseverance. Ever the skeptic, I never really believed the treatment would work. But, I soldiered on, and scheduled an ultrasound three months later. The doctor looked at me for so long, turning me this way and that, I thought something might be seriously wrong. It turned out she was just trying very hard to find my gallstones. They were missing. Gone. Nowhere to be found. My kidney stone was AWOL as well. She couldn't believe her eyes.